Did lie-flat travel peak in 2021? We saw Qantas offer Australians the chance to fly to Bali in luxury, leaps and bounds in the premium economy, business and first class spaces, and several spine-tingling predictions for the future.
Then The Bat Kiss sucked the life out of ~travel~.
Now frequent flyers are staying put for all but the most essential reasons, and even those that have flown up the pointy end in recent months have reported a “confusing” experience. To put it mildly, the future is uncertain.
We’ve already seen some indicators of how business class might change coming out of these times (Qantas has pulled the self serve buffet from its lounge, Qatar Airways has given cabin crew Hazmat suits and Emirates have launched a COVID testing service, to name just three).
To understand more, DMARGE spoke to two prolific business class flyers (who are more immersed in the industry than almost anyone), to get a fuller take on what changes business class travellers should be ready for when borders open up again.
Immanuel Debeer, founder of Flight Hacks, told DMARGE “full service food and drinks” may be on the chopping block: “Enjoying full service (food & drinks) was definitely something I took for granted. Many airlines are now cost-cutting with the excuse of ‘safety’, however, I fail to see how limiting food and drinks in business and first-class will help with safety concerns.”
“I feel it will be some time before we see normality return to the skies and until then, even the most expensive tickets will feature barebone amenities.”
Adele Eliseo, points hacker and publisher of The Champagne Mile also pointed this out: “The crippling effects of Covid-19 have also seen many airlines look to cut costs – at the pointy end of the plane, this might include cheaper wine, less illustrious ingredients and restricted meal service.”
That said, Immanuel said there will also, “surely” be some upsides, as “overall cleaning standards” are set to improve and people are now realising that social distancing is nice in more way than one.
“There’s really nothing more annoying than space invaders when you’re flying so maybe people will become more aware of their fellow travelers.”
On top of that, Immanuel told DMARGE the laissez faire business class culture may come under increased attack in the following years: “There’s definitely a lot of ‘flight shaming’ going on these days.”
“Right now international travel (at least for Australians) is purely out of necessity, I haven’t seen anyone who managed to escape for a holiday. On a domestic level, it depends on the state where you live. Here in Western Australia we’re stuck in our big bubble and life continues semi-normal, local tourism is booming and flights to warmer destinations north of the state are super busy,” Immanuel told us.
“In Europe tourism has picked up again too, I see many of my friends enjoying European summer without the mass tourism; probably a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the most famous landmarks without having to share it with the rest of the world! However, I don’t see the overall luxury travel culture change. There are a lot of people patiently waiting until we can travel again and no doubt they will want to catch up on everything they missed out on.”
Breezing through airport security might become trickier in the coming years, too, even for pointy end passengers. As points hacker Adele told DMARGE, “For elite travellers, the streamlined experience of arriving at the airport, fast tracking through security into an exclusive lounge and then seamlessly boarding the plane is likely a thing of the past.”
“The need to maintain social distancing will see the check-in and boarding process carried out much more slowly. As we move towards international travel, we might see a range of safeguards put in place – think temperature checks and additional screening.”
“Once on the plane,” Adele predicts, “personalised interaction will likely be limited, with cabin crew aiming to minimise exposure to passengers. Onboard lounges and spaces such as the iconic business and first class bar onboard the Emirates A380 will likely be shuttered as airlines look to implement minimise interaction between passengers and crew.”
Let’s just pray there’s still hope for the business class slammer.